Posts Tagged ‘Lou Williams’

Hawks Lose Lou Williams For The Season


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Atlanta Hawks suffered a major blow Saturday when they learned that Lou Williams has a torn ACL in his right knee and is out for the season.

Williams suffered the injury on Friday night in the Hawks’ 94-89 loss in Brooklyn. It was a non-contact injury, much like those suffered by Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert last April. A date for surgery has not yet been set.

The injury throws a wrinkle into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, where the Hawks are one of six teams with between 15 and 19 losses. They had a solid hold on the No. 3 seed at the start of January, but have lost seven of their last nine games and are now in serious danger of slipping down to the seven or eight spot in the next week.

Williams, signed to a three-year, $15.7 million dollar contract, was a key component coming off Atlanta’s bench, averaging 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. The Hawks currently rank 15th offensively, scoring just 101.2 points per 100 possessions. But they were better with Williams on the floor (102.1) than they were with him on the bench (99.9).

Williams’ injury means that rookie John Jenkins will have to step up. Jenkins is more of a shooter than a playmaker, but the Hawks do have both Jeff Teague and Devin Harris to handle the ball.

Smith, Hawks Headed For Divorce?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In legal quarters they call it “irreconcilable differences,” the basis for granting dissolution in no-fault divorce states.

Neither Josh Smith nor anyone in the Atlanta Hawks’ front office is willing to publicly admit that their relationship has moved into the realm of “irretrievable,” but some of us recognize the obvious. It’s time for a clean break for both sides.

Smith was tossed out of practice Tuesday, fined and then suspended for Wednesday’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets for conduct detrimental to the team. Smith was suspended by the team earlier in his career for a similar transgression, when he lit into then-Hawks coach and current Knicks coach Mike Woodson, so his critics will surely point to the fact that he has a history of acting out this way.

Sure, he made a statement apologizing and articulating all of the right things:

“Clearly I am competitive and was frustrated by our recent losses,” Smith said in a statement released by the team. “I understand and respect the team’s actions and just want to get back on the court to do whatever is necessary to help my teammates. I apologize for letting them down and apologize to our fans for not being available for tonight’s game.”

But it still doesn’t resolve the lingering issue that has been there from the day this hastily arranged marriage between the enigmatic hometown kid and the beleaguered franchise was consummated on Draft night 2004.

Smith wasn’t supposed to last until the 17th pick that year. But his stock plummeted on the eve of the Draft based on whispers at workouts that he didn’t show up with the best attitude and energy in some places. We all remember what happened on Draft night, when ESPN analyst Jay Bilas smashed him before he could pull that Hawks hat down tight over his head.

Nearly nine years later, Smith has done plenty to prove his doubters wrong. At 27, he’s become one of the most versatile and productive power forwards in the league, a player with All-Star credentials who has never actually made an All-Star team. We could debate the reasons for that another time, say next week when he probably misses out again despite leading his team in scoring (16.5) and blocks (2.3) while also averaging 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

His production isn’t the issue. Everything else is. Instead of being a fan favorite, no player sends a more divisive shiver through the Philips Arena crowd than Smith does. The fans don’t agree with his preferred playing style and they’re not afraid to let the world know about it. Any shot of his from outside 12 feet is usually accompanied by a collective groan at the building some like to refer to as the “Highlight Factory.”

A fixture in trade rumors since his second season in the league, Smith, a free agent at season’s end, finds himself smack in the middle of those trade crosshairs once again. His representatives insist that he is not interested in forcing a trade by the Feb. 21 trade deadline. “I want to be clear that I’m not pushing a trade,” Wallace Prather told Ken Berger of “This is not a trade request or anything, but there are frustrations in Atlanta.”

Smith is never going to turn his back on his hometown. He’s never going to come out and proclaim his desire to play elsewhere. And no general manager the Hawks have employed, from Billy Knight (who drafted Smith) to Rick Sund (who refused to come up with a contract for Smith and eventually matched a $58 million offer sheet from the Memphis Grizzlies to keep him in the fold) to current boss Danny Ferry has exhibited any desire in meeting the Smith camp halfway in NBA divorce court.

The Hawks have All-Star big man Al Horford to work with, as well as standout guards in Lou Williams and Jeff Teague. They have a decision to make about the future of coach Larry Drew, whose cause Smith championed when no other Hawks player did when Woodson’s contract wasn’t renewed, as well. The Hawks can take all of the cap space they’ve accumulated and rebuild with or without Smith.

Smith is still young enough to start over somewhere else and continue to play in his prime, working as a productive piece for a playoff team in a city that doesn’t possess the inherent pitfalls of his beloved hometown.

Both sides need a fresh start. That much is obvious to us all.

Now, who has the courage to admit it by Feb. 21?

Blogtable: Shaking Up Atlanta

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 12: The bumbling Heat | Shaking up Atlanta | Rock bottom for Lakers?

Larry Drew said he’s gonna make changes with the Hawks. Ideas?

Steve Aschburner: I’m the wrong person to opine on this because I was in the building Monday night when the Hawks scored just 20 points by halftime against Chicago at United Center. Hey, the entire Atlanta team, in the second quarter, scored five more points than I did. So I’m prone, as they say, to throw the baby out with the bath water – and then slap the baby’s parents. But I’ll focus on one possible change: Josh Smith. Before the game, Drew talked about Smith being overdue for All-Star selection. But in the game, the talented but temperamental player sulked, jawed with referees and got T’d up for throwing the ball hard at ref Ken Mauer. Nice enough guy and supremely skilled, but the Hawks should not commit on a max deal to him and dare not lose him in free agency for nothing. Trade him before the Feb. 21 deadline.

Fran Blinebury: What’s he going to do — put Zaza Pachulia in the starting lineup for Al Horford, Devin Harris in for Jeff Teague and expect everything to change? Despite what Drew said, it is very much his job to coach effort, to have his players inspired and motivated every night. As soon as a coach throws up his hands and says it’s not, he’s inviting himself to be the change.

Jeff Caplan: Sign up on LinkedIn and get your resume up to snuff. Look, this team had a nice start, but it doesn’t have the pieces to make a deep playoff run. It didn’t with Joe Johnson and it doesn’t know. There’s been a sense ever since Danny Ferry took over as GM that Drew was a short-timer. Ferry’s done a great job clearing out salary and making room to add more pieces, but that process likely won’t start until the summer when Drew will likely be hitting the pavement.

Scott Howard-CooperScore more than 58 points. Change that. Assuming you mean ideas for changes with the team he is given, since that is LD’s department, not trades, there aren’t many changes to make. Tell Josh Smith to lay off the jumpers? Good luck with that conversation.

John Schuhmann: I’m not sure why he put Lou Williams back on the bench in the first place. They were having some success with a starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Williams, Kyle Korver, Josh Smith and Al Horford. Then they lost a few games in a row and Drew went away from it, even though that lineup wasn’t really the problem. Lineup change or not, I think they’re just coming back down to earth a bit. They’re not as good as they were when they were No. 3 in the East, and they’re not as bad as they’ve been over the last seven games.

Sekou SmithLarry Drew, who’s done a fine job as the Hawks’ coach, better be careful. He doesn’t have a contract beyond this season and is working under a general manager who didn’t hire him. The easiest change to make for a team with a roster full of guys on one-year or expiring deals is a coaching change. The rumors of the Hawks trading Josh Smith have been rumbling for five years. Ignore them. He’s not going anywhere. The stunner, the move that would really shake things up is if the Hawks were to consider it, would be to entertain offers for Al Horford, whose trade value would be sky-high (young and productive power forward with a reasonable contract).

Hapless Hawks Nosediving In New Year

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The timing couldn’t be any worse.

Struggling through their ugliest stretch of the season, including Monday’s night’s horrific and his historically bad scoring effort in a loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks are set to host their former franchise player and six-time All-Star, Joe Johnson, and the surging Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night (7:30 ET, League Pass) at Philips Arena.

Losers of seven of their last nine games, the Hawks are losing their grip on what was, two weeks ago, a comfortable top-three position in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The humiliating 97-58 loss to the Bulls has to be the low-point. The Hawks scored just five (yes, five!) points in the second quarter. It was the Hawks’ second fewest points scored in a game in the shot-clock era and punctuated their fifth straight road loss.

When your coach speaks the way Larry Drew did after the game, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Chris Vivlamore reports …

“The disturbing thing is the effort part. I shouldn’t have to come out and coach effort every single night. Effort is what you’re being paid, to bring effort every single night. Maybe it’s the chemistry right now,” Drew said. “I’m going to have to do something to kind of jump-start us again.

“Right now we’ve flatlined. Not just from a physical standpoint. Mentally we have flattened. I’ve got to find a way to resuscitate this team.”

… it’s officially time to start worrying that your 21-16 record will get flipped in the coming weeks.

This is certainly not the sort of mood the Hawks were hoping for in their welcome back game with Johnson and the Nets.

Much was made of his departure, via trade last summer, barely a week into the Danny Ferry era. Ferry was celebrated for getting rid of Johnson’s monstrous contract (as well of that of Marvin Williams in a separate deal with Utah) and freeing up the Hawks’ funds for what could potentially be a huge free agent summer of 2013.

For a while, it seemed that Drew and the frontcourt tandem of Josh Smith and All-Star Al Horford could do the unthinkable and lead the Hawks back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings without their All-Star workhorse. But that was before their current skid, where an assortment of injuries and other issues have combined to stall that effort.

Instead of plotting a course to move up the standings in the New (calendar) Year, the Hawks are struggling to stay afloat while the Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Nets and Boston Celtics are all getting back into a groove.

The Hawks looked like a borderline playoff team before the season began. Their strong early season start gave me pause and made me rethink that stance for a minute. But the first impression of this team turns out to be the lasting one.

Drew better administer CPR quickly, because the upcoming schedule doesn’t ease up. Back-to-back home and road games against the Nets are followed by home games against the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves, a road game against Charlotte. A road game against the New York Knicks is sandwiched between home dates against the Celtics and Toronto Raptors to finish off the month.

If the Hawks don’t clean up the mess within those next eight games, the first month of the year might very well do them in!

Rick’s Tips: Fantasy Awards, So Far

Happy New Year, fantasy fans! It’s time to get back to work with 10 fantasy awards for the 2012 portion of the 2012-13 regular season.

Most Surprising Player – Larry Sanders, Bucks
Raise your hand if you saw Sanders ranking 46th across eight categories thanks to 8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, and 54 percent shooting. Sanders leads the NBA in blocks per game, ahead of last year’s leader Serge Ibaka and three-time DPOY Dwight Howard. Disappointment – Deron Williams, Nets
I’ve been disappointed by D-Will for three reasons. One, how do you play on Christmas, then take off the next night against Milwaukee, then watch your coach get fired the next day, and then immediately return to the lineup the day after that? Two, how could D-Will not come into his first season in Brooklyn in the best shape of his life? Finally, after averaging 21.0 points and 8.7 assists last season, he’s down to 16.6 and 7.8 through 33 games this year.

Mr. Headache – Pau Gasol, Lakers
Not only are Pau’s numbers way down and not only did he take two weeks off to rest tendonitis in both knees, but he has been benched in the fourth quarter several times since Mike D’Antoni took over. I didn’t think Pau was going to be a 20-10 guy this year, but I certainly predicted more than 12.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks. And whereas Pau has historically been a 50-80 guy on the percentages, he is shooting 42-74.

Best Pickup – Lou Williams, Hawks
Williams was picked up in most leagues a couple weeks ago when Larry Drew promoted him to the starting lineup. Lou has been solid all season, but he has taken his game to another level in eight starts, averaging 18.3 points, 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.3 threes, while shooting 49 percent, and 80 percent from the stripe. Lou is as competitive as he is talented, so there’s no end in sight to this productivity.

Best Comeback – Dwight Howard, Lakers
Dwight’s final season in Orlando was cut short by a back problem that required surgery. He returned late in the preseason and has been a beast for LA ever since, averaging 17.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks, while shooting 57 percent.

Most Improved Player – Jrue Holiday, 76ers
Holiday was a disappointment last season, averaging a pedestrian 13.5 points and 4.5 assists. But his scoring average is up to 18.4 and his assists have spiked to 8.9 — good for fourth in the NBA. With Andre Iguodala in Denver, Doug Collins has given Holiday the ball and a long leash, and he has not disappointed this time around.

Defensive MVP – Josh Smith, Hawks
My definition of Defensive MVP is the player with the best combination of blocks and steals, and Josh leads the league at 3.8 combined B/S per game. His 2.3 blocks rank sixth in the league, while his 1.5 steals rank 19th.

Best Rookie – Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
This is a two-horse race between Lillard and Anthony Davis, but Lillard is currently lapping Davis. Lillard ranks 31st across eight categories with 18.2 points, 6.4 assists, 2.2 threes, 1.0 steal, and 85 percent from the line, while Davis ranks 53rd. As a proud owner of Lillard, I can only hope the Blazers stay in the playoff hunt because that will keep him motivated to push through the rookie wall.

Most Valuable Player – James Harden, Rockets
Other candidates for Fantasy MVP include Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and Tim Duncan, but Harden is my choice because he is providing first-round value despite being drafted in the second or third round. Harden has blossomed into a true 8-cat player in Houston, with 26.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.5 blocks, 2 steals, 2 threes, 45 percent from the field and 86 percent from the line. He ranks fourth across eight categories, with only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant ahead of him.

Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.

Sixers Lack Continuity, But Still Deep

PHILADELPHIA – In getting off to a hot start last season, the Philadelphia 76ers had two big advantages over other teams. The first was continuity. They had made minimal changes to their roster and brought back guys who played an incredible 99 percent of their minutes from the previous season.

The second advantage was depth. The Sixers didn’t go 10 or 11-deep, but they had three or four guys coming off their bench – namely Evan Turner, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young – who could keep the scoreboard going in the right direction. That trio was especially strong offensively, and the Sixers outscored their opponents by almost eight points per 100 possessions when the three were on the floor together.

“We had three guys coming off our bench who were capable of being starters,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said at training camp on Friday.

Turner eventually did become a starter. And that should be a permanent thing this year. The Sixers don’t have nearly the same continuity as they had last year (only 45 percent of last year’s minutes were played by guys on this year’s roster), but they should once again have little drop-off, especially offensively, when they go to their bench.

Hawks Have New Faces, New Pressure

ATLANTA – Josh Smith considers himself a realist. And he’s never been one to hold his tongue where his team is concerned.

So while you might hear championship talk from someone in every single training camp around the league this time of year, the Hawks’ forward refuses to play that game in a situation where name tags were actually necessary like they were at media day Monday at Philips Arena.

Only five of the 18 players the Hawks will suit up for their first practice Tuesday were a part of the organization last year. The Hawks jettisoned six-time All-Star Joe Johnson (Brooklyn Nets) and starting small forward and former No. 2 overall Draft pick Marvin Williams (Utah Jazz) as two of the nine players sent packing during a summer makeover/fire sale engineered by new general manager Danny Ferry.

That leaves Smith, All-Star center Al Horford, starting point guard Jeff Teague and back up big men Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson as the returning nucleus of a team that made five straight trips to the playoffs. A sixth is as far as Smith is willing to go with his preseason hype before seeing this new group, complete with as many as  in action.

“Every summer I take a look at my team and try to make an educated guess about where we fit,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a challenge, going against some of the top-notch teams in the East when you consider Miami comes back strong as ever. Boston went out and got better, got a couple of steals late in the draft to go with what they already had. Basically, all of the teams that were up there made moves to stay in that mix. I’m not going to lie, it is going to be a challenge. But it’s always been a challenge for us. And we always seem to find our way into the playoff mix. This season is no different.”


After Playoff Run, Sixers Shake It Up

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Boston Celtics have reloaded with Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green. The Brooklyn Nets have spent over $300 million on their new starting lineup. The New York Knicks lost Jeremy Lin, but added depth. And the Toronto Raptors have upgraded their rotation with the additions of Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields and Jonas Valanciunas.

Overall, the Atlantic Division is on an upswing. But what of the Philadelphia 76ers, who were, at one point, one of the last five teams still alive in the 2012 Playoffs?

With seven players in their rotation under the age of 25, the Sixers could have stood pat and kept improving. Instead, they let go of two of their biggest contributors, allowing free agent Lou Williams to sign with the Atlanta Hawks and using the amnesty clause to waive Elton Brand.

In their place are Nick Young (signed to a one-year deal), Dorell Wright (acquired from Golden State) and Kwame Brown (two years).

With young guards/wings Maurice Harkless, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner on board, it’s understandable why the Sixers didn’t want to commit long-term to Williams. But Brand was on the final year of his contract, and the Sixers clearly downgraded in their frontcourt. (more…)

Sixers Take Advantage Of Bradley’s Absence

PHILADELPHIA – Before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins stressed points in the paint as one of the biggest keys.

Then his team proceeded to outscore the Boston Celtics 42-16 in the paint, forcing Game 7 with a 82-75 victory.

This was an ugly game through and through. But the Sixers finally broke through offensively in the third quarter, largely because their guards were repeatedly able to get into the paint. And you had to wonder if things would have been different if the Celtics had Avery Bradley.

The second-year guard, who had made life tough for the Philly guards in the first four games, missed his second straight game with a pair of shoulder injuries. The Sixers’ Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Lou Williams took advantage.


How Boston ‘Iced’ Philly In Game 2

PHILADELPHIA – It’s not clear if Brian Scalabrine is ready to retire yet, but he’s already in preparation for his next career.

Comcast SportsNet New England, which broadcasts Celtics games, hired Scalabrine to provide pre-and postgame analysis during the Celtics-Sixers series. So, there he was, in a suit at TD Garden on Saturday, talking about the Sixers just 48 hours after Philly had eliminated his own Chicago Bulls.

The former Celtic got a huge ovation from the Garden crowd when he was shown on the Jumbotron on Saturday. But Scalabrine’s finest moment of this postseason came after Game 3, when he asked Rajon Rondo one of the smarter questions you’ll ever hear in a postgame press conference.

“The adjustment on the side pick and roll,” Scalabrine said, “you guys went to the ‘ice’ or the ‘down,’ or whatever you guys use in your terminology. Do you like that better than going over the top with the ‘show’?”

“I like it better,” Rondo replied. “I don’t think they do. Their offense, we watched the first couple of games, they got into the paint pretty good on the side pick and rolls. And it led to corner threes, it led to the high-low. I think we took a clip from you guys. You guys ‘iced’ a lot of the side pick and rolls in that series, and I think they struggled offensively. I think we did a good job tonight. The bigs did a great job talking, and guards kept fighting over, even when they did step up and set the side pick and roll.”

OK. So what the heck does it mean to “ice” a pick-and-roll?